Disney Studios has built a reputation for bringing the best in family entertainment since their early efforts in the '30s. It all started with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and just built from there. The added live-action films beginning in 1950 with Treasure Island and always tried to release wholesome family entertainment for kids of all ages.
However, along the way, Disney also started to release movies that not only entertained the kids but also destroyed people emotionally. For every happily ever after, there was a movie that was so sad that it left scars in kids' minds that never healed. With some amazing films along the way, here is a look at the most heartbreaking Disney films of all-time.
Disney started breaking hearts early and set the tone with their 1941 animated release Dumbo. This animated movie plays cruelly with its protagonist from the start. Jumbo Jr. was a sweet baby elephant whose mother loved him dearly. However, people made fun of him because of his big ears and cruelly called him Dumbo instead.
That was sad and hateful, but Disney took it one step further. When his mother tried to protect her baby, she was deemed dangerous and was taken away, removing the only creature that fully loved and protected the young elephant. When his mom brings her trunk down from her caged car and hugs him, and Dumbo begins to cry, everyone watching does as well.
Following Dumbo, Disney one-upped the pain of losing a parent in the most heartbreaking way possible with Bambi. The movie was about a young deer finding its way and becoming a friend, and eventually becoming an adult and finding its mate. However, the one thing that made this movie interesting was that the villain was an unseen force known as Man.
Of course, Man was a hunter and was simply out hunting deer. The one scene in this movie that destroyed kids all over the world came early on when Man destroyed Bambi's life by gunning down his mother, leaving him alone and scared.
8 OLD YELLER
When Disney starred making live-action movies with Treasure Island, it was assumed that these would be big, fun adventure movies — and for the most part, they were. However, when Disney released Old Yeller in 1957, it played as a cruel and heartless film as they unleashed the most depressing movie of all-time on kids everywhere.
When the Coates family takes in a stray lab and name him Old Yeller, they find a pet that both protects them and brings them closer together. When Old Yeller is injured by a wolf and succumbs to hydrophobia, it is up to Travis to take his gun and put down man's best friend. Not even a new puppy at the end can erase that moment from anyone's memory.
7 THE FOX AND THE HOUND
The Fox and the Hound is a movie about friendship; it's about two very different creatures—bred to be enemies—can become the closest of friends. However, this entire movie assaults the senses of viewers and is one of Disney's most heartbreaking movies. It all starts off when Tod is abandoned as a baby by Widow Tweed due to the cruel Slade.
Move to the end, and while that was horribly depressing, the moment that Copper stands between Slade and Tod to save his friend's life adds a twist at the end. Slade finally agrees not to kill Tod, but as he leaves, the viewer knows that this also marks the end of Tod and Copper's relationship as well.
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6 THE LION KING
Based on Hamlet, the Disney animated movie The Lion King was destined to start out with a tragedy. Just like with Bambi, Simba had to lose his father in order to become a man and a king. The thing about The Lion King is that it took the story further than Bambi dared. A gunshot rang out and we knew Bambi's mom died. However, we got to know Mustafa, so when he died, it was partially the fault of Simba. When Simba stood over his father and asked him to "get up," the audience felt their hearts break along with the lion cub. When Simba was banished by his uncle, believing it was his fault, the movie turned dark very quickly.
5 LILO & STITCH
Released in 2002, Lilo & Stitch was a strange little Disney movie. It had a weird alien creature that caused all kinds of problems, relied heavily on the music of Elvis Presley, and told a story of friendship by the most unlikely of outcasts. However, there was a sadness deep in the story that is hard to escape.
Lilo was a little girl whose parents had died, felt like a social outcast, and was bullied by all the other children in her town. There was also a social service worker who wanted the best for Lilo, but it almost meant taking her away from the only family she had left. Stitch was a creature created as a weapon but escaped to find out that he could be more than that, finally helping fill the hole in Lilo's heart.
Pixar loves to create movies that no one could ever dream of working and then turning them into giant critical successes. Want an almost silent movie about a robot that cleans a barren Earth? Wall-E is what you are looking for. Want a movie about an elderly man and a Cub Scout going on an adventure together? Up is your ticket.
However, what no one expected was to be crying their eyes out at the beginning of an animated movie. That happened with Up, which possesses the most heartbreaking opening of any Disney movie. Carl meets Ellie as a child, the two fall in love, and they get married. Ellie tries to have a child but miscarries and then they grow old together. Then Ellie dies. It is deep and depressing and possibly the greatest opening to any Disney animated film.
3 TOY STORY 3
Toy Story was the world's introduction to the world of Andy and his toys. Honestly, it was just about the toys with Andy as a background figure, but the entire journey of these toys was to show how much they loved Andy and how much he loved them back. The interesting thing about the franchise was that time passed by.
Andy stopped being a little kid and became older. Then, by Toy Story 3, Andy was grown up and headed off to college. The entire theme of this movie was what happens to toys when the children who loved them grow up and don't need them anymore. The end of the movie, when Andy gives his toys to a new little girl and then finally gives up his beloved Woody as well is as heartbreaking a moment as in any Disney movie.
2 BIG HERO 6
Big Hero 6 was the first Marvel animated movie released by Disney into theaters. However, unlike the superhero movies in their Marvel Cinematic Universe, the characters in Big Hero 6 were mostly kids and the film was geared towards younger audiences. With that said, Disney didn't hold back and the movie opened and closed with depressing moments.
The hero's journey of Hiro was when his brother died in a fire set by the villain of the movie. Hiro lost his brother and had lost his parents before the movie ever started. This film was about him finding a new family with his team and robot Baymax. That brings us to the end... In order to save Hiro, Baymax has to give up his own life, and Hiro lost his closest companion as well.
1 INSIDE OUT
Pixar loves to create sad movies, but when it comes to the most heartbreaking Disney movie of all-time, Inside Out might take the prize. The movie was an unlikely success story — the entire thing taking place in the brain of a young girl. Her emotions are the main characters and when Joy tries to stop Sadness from affecting Riley, things go bad.
The most depressing and heartbreaking moment came when they found a childhood imaginary friend named Bing Bong. Joy and Sadness ended up in a pit where memories go to die and in order to save them, Bing Bong sacrifices himself. As Joy realizes what happened, Bing Bong is erased forever from Riley's memory and asks Joy to "Take her to the moon for me" in a moment that made everyone tear up.